March 23, 2013: Strategy Page
When the Soviet Union dissolved in 1991, the new Russian state created a new constitution that was very different from what the Soviet Union had. For example, the 1993 constitution called for the government to develop a plan for defending Russia and make this a public document. Such things were always top secret during the Soviet period and before that as well. Within a decade of the 1993 constitution going into effect, these military plans became secret again. This was done quietly and gradually until now nearly all the details are top secret. There is some wisdom in this, because Russia has always been surrounded by a lot of actual or potential enemies and was usually lacking the forces needed to deal with all the dangers. So by keeping everything military top secret you caused uncertainty and doubt for your foes. This actually had some utility.
These days Russia is claiming to have far more enemies than it actually does. Vladimir Putin, who has been running Russia (in one elected capacity or another) for over a decade sees enemies everywhere, even where they aren’t. Putin confidently tells the Russian people that national defense is well taken care of and not to worry. This, despite things like personnel shortages in the military being common knowledge, as well as a lack of modern equipment. Putin has lately been talking about how military education was undergoing some long (since Soviet times) needed reforms and consolidations. Russia is also increasing military education opportunities at the high school and college level, in order to attract high quality personnel to the ranks of career (as opposed to reservist) officers. The airborne troops are being reorganized as a force of 22 infantry battalions of well-equipped and trained troops who will be available for emergencies anywhere within the vast expanse of Russia.
For all this, Russia is now less of a land power than at any time in centuries. The Russian Army is smaller than that of the United States and China. In fact, China has an army three times the size of Russia’s and the Chinese defense spending is three times that of Russia. In practice, Russia depends on its nuclear weapons, especially those carried by ballistic missiles, to keep major enemies out.